Disclaimer: The following is a jumble of conversations that occurred during my week with school…. I think I’ve mentioned previously that I’m taking a religion/identity course for the humanities portion of my degree… So what you have here are snippets of discussion threads… All the words and thoughts are mine. There is a stream of conscious type thing going on here…the paragraphs or snippets don’t necessarily lead from one thought to the next…. so bear with me 😉
Faith is a very personal thing… it is based on culture and personal experience. And because it is such a very personal thing, many people cling to it… I think sometimes out of fear, other times for confirmation…
I think that in general people are afraid of death, afraid of the end of the world, afraid of the end of life – religions give us all hope of something more after this life. That being said, we all hope that our own religious beliefs are leading us to that afterlife of something more. None of us likes to think of death being the end and our bodies put in the ground. The end.
These strong convictions cause the polarity between people and religions. Many religions have said that our way is the only way, the right way, and if you don’t believe in our way then you will surely not go to heaven, rather you will burn in hell or some equally distasteful eternal thing.
Studying the various religious cultures allows people to become aware of religious practices other than their own, thereby shedding some light on why others believe the way they do. In addition, the studies may open our eyes to the similarities between the various religions. I have found that many belief systems have a few common threads. As the Hindus and many other eastern religions believe, whatever gets us to the mountaintop is okay.
Education is key…. I just wonder how accepting and open-minded some would actually be. I mean, some folks (I’m sure you know some too) are so incredibly stubborn! And so they are very unwilling to think about anything that deviates from their own personal normal. I can remember years ago when I started “hanging-out” with a Buddhist monk. Boy, I caught so much flack for that. I am Catholic… was raised by a family that is completely and totally ingrained in the faith.
In many situations people tend to find it easier to condemn others rather than learn about them. It takes some effort and some mental energy to learn something new and different, to try to understand something that may be uncomfortable or foreign. It’s a shame really. There is so much out there in the world and I truly believe we could all gain from learning as much as we can. I also think that gathering knowledge induces a state of wisdom… and with wisdom we may be better equipped to handle life in this world a bit more graciously, with less violence, anger, and fear.
And when you consider the business of life these days – people working and going home to care for kids and not having time or the inclination to spend time studying…. these people who are educating their children in the same closed minded, “whatever” attitude kind of way… and then the scholars of the world wonder why things don’t change much… it’s generational… that open mindedness… I wish that was something kids could learn in school, tolerance I mean. There is no tolerance in schools, as much as they like to think there is… as much as removing religion and other things from school is supposed to breed tolerance…it doesn’t. It only serves to create a more sheltered and naive view of the world and other cultures…. it creates a sense of safety in our own culture but provides nothing of the wisdom which comes with tolerance and compassion…
To proselytize, to recruit, to “bible-thump”… these things can be quite annoying to others. Those folks that are on a mission to convert others to their faith are an intrusion on a personal portion of another’s life. And many of these recruiters can be so very persistent in what they are doing! I don’t know much about religions that practice the go out and knock on doors, give away bibles and other activities… but I have heard that it is a part of their religious confirmation so to speak. They are required to do so much missionary work, so much recruiting in order to be worthy of their church.
Being willing to argue and fight for one’s beliefs…. I think that when we are born into a religious practice, raised in that faith, participate in the rituals and customs of the religion… well it becomes a part of who we are. And when someone challenges who we are…it is natural to become offended, put off, and rigid. Especially when many religious leaders are proclaiming that their faith is the only right way and all others are doomed to eternal damnation. How frightening!
I have become emotional during services or when praying. When asked about the emotion, it’s hard to explain… it’s just an overwhelming feeling that invades. I don’t know why it happens.. My religious upbringing tells me that it is the Holy Spirit moving within me. I like to believe that. Emotions can be connected to many life events when viewed from a religious perspective as well. That old adage that says when one door closes another one opens… for me it means the same thing as telling me that God provides for me – He takes away from me, and He provides for me.
I believe that things in my life happened just when the time was right…. He new when I would be best equipped to handle the MS… He knew when I would have the love and support in my daily life to help lend me strength…
I have no power to dictate who worships who. It is a personal, familial, or societal thing that leads us to believe one way or another. I think about people living in the remotest areas of the world… how do I know they’ve ever been exposed to Christianity? And if they hadn’t, then how could I condemn them for their belief system? (I just pose that as an example)
People are brought up in the faith of their people so to speak… the culture, the neighborhood, their family… these are the things that form a young person’s belief system. As a person matures and becomes exposed to the world outside their family, they may choose to follow a different path. And it remains a personal choice. Indeed, a very personal one.
I have respect for people of all faiths. I have a notion that most faiths are inherently good and designed to mold it’s followers into loving and kind people. I mentioned somewhere else here that I used to argue with my priest as a teen… one of those arguments was centered around Catholics being the only ones… how can that be? When there are people who know nothing of Catholicism? Just makes no sense to me….
I know many folks who believe in nothing but the here and now (atheists)… no afterlife, no higher power. And the ones that I was comfortable enough to discuss faith with are afraid of dying… even though they have no faith, and their lack of faith in a higher power lends to no afterlife, they do not like to realize that death is the end. Their egos, their human minds don’t want to consider that beyond breath and thought, there is nothing.
As for tolerance, many religions are very tolerant. But I have to say that Christianity is very low on the tolerance scale. It amazes me that most all religions acknowledge Christianity as a valid religion, but we Christians do not recognize others as true and valid religions. (I am a Christian) I used to argue with my priest when I was a teen. I believe in many things that the Catholic Church frowns on… I’m considered a “bad” Catholic ha! Anyhow, being raised Catholic/Christian, I was taught to walk in the path of Jesus… Christ-like. Accepting, loving, compassionate. So then I have a hard time with the idea that if someone is not Christian they are not going to make it…
It’s amazing how different religious practices can be around the world.
I was raised Catholic… and I don’t agree with many things about the Catholic church. And the more I’ve learned about eastern religions, I have found things they do that I have integrated into my daily life…such as meditation. This is a big one for me. Treating all life with ultimate compassion and loving-kindness is another… I kill nothing… I won’t even squash a roach, spider, or spray the ants…. that comes from eastern philosophy. All life is sacred….
The study of theology…. the study of religion and religious impact on society…
As times change, as society evolves, as science develops…. with each generation who studies the scriptures, we are offered new interpretations with the theologians spin – opinions or thoughts about the scriptures. When this happens, the truth as we know it changes. And that fluid truth has an impact on believers….
I think about the rapture theory.. the end of the world is predicted to be May 21, 2011. That is a frightening thought for many. I’m curious to see what sort of events, activities, crime, and panic are going to be occurring over the next few months… as a Catholic, we don’t believe in the rapture in this sense. Catholics have been taught of only a second-coming… the rapture theory allows for a third-coming. I have never read of a third-coming in scripture… but that doesn’t mean anything… One other thing – my Catholic upbringing taught me that no where does Jesus tell us when He is returning, nor does God. So I don’t know about all this rapture stuff… but I’m prepared just in case… I have acknowledged Jesus as my Savior and the only path to God….